Please remember this warning when next summer rolls around.
It is always around the summertime, when the sandals get taken out of the closet and the discovery of unsightly toenail fungus becomes apparent. I feel for my patients who want a quick fix for the problem. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for this problem. Toenail fungus takes time to infect the toenails and by the time it is noticeable, it has already been present for an extended time.
Toenail fungus is caused primarily from a dermatophyte (big word) infection. It can occur in many areas of the body including the head, face, groin and foot and can be very contagious. A person can get toenail fungus from a previous fungal infection in the foot like athletes foot and from another outside source. Some places are public showers, your own shower (if you have a member with the problem), and pools. While a lot of podiatrists like to slam pedicurist for being a cause, please keep in mind; these nail salons don’t want you to get it either! I always advise my patients that if are going to go to a pedicurist, make sure it is clean.
Once the fungus invades the toenail, you will notice a change in the color and shape of the nail. In advanced cases the nails will thicken and a debris will form underneath the nail. Whatever you do, don’t jam instruments under the nail as this will only push the infectious material deeper into the nail bed.
So what do we do? Prevention is key. If you have any other fungal infections make sure to treat them quickly. Athletes foot can be treated with topical medication very successful if the problem is not out of hand. Practice good hygiene with your feet, keeping them clean and dry between the toes. If you notice skin peeling and itchiness, you should be evaluated for care.
Watch out with your shoes; Fungus loves DARK, MOIST and WARM areas. This sounds exactly like my shoes at the end of a tough work day. Let them dry and spray them with an antifungal/antibacterial spray like Lysol.
So now what do we do if there is a fungus invading the nail. There are many treatments that are available. Be very careful with over the counter miracle cures. Go and discuss it with your favorite podiatrist…perhaps one in Plymouth Meeting, PA 😉 A good assessment and treatment plan can be decided together. There are topical cures. These must be used religiously for 6-12 months. It is also important to ddecide if that is an option, if the nail is infected back towards the base of the toenail, this may not work. Also, there are oral medications that help with compliance (all you have to do is swallow a pill) but with any oral medication it should be discussed with your doctor as the risks and benefits must be weighed out. There is also the addition of laser therapy. This involves the use of a laser to destroy the fungus. It will sometimes requires multiple treatments. For full eradication the nail will likely show results after 6 months.
Unfortunately, none of these treatments are guaranteed. I feel that nail fungus is a disease that can spread, so it is important to treat the problem and not ignore. So while we sit here in our cold Northeast, dreaming of our summer activities, remember that the true cure takes time, that is why I think now’s the time to treat those toenails, while we can hide them in our boots and sneakers, only to have those sandals look fantastic with our perfect toenails.
So think about it, we have the technology to treat you and help you here at Barking Dogs Foot and Ankle Care. Give us a call and we’ll see you soon.